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Planet Earth Sunday
Season of Creation, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
September 2, 2018

Psalm 84; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69

‘God of the gaps/cracks/spaces’

We are Earthlings, each one of us. And today’s theme critiques dualism, any kind of dualism, that sets human being over and against the being of Earth. For Christ’s sake, we are called to resist all arrogance, violence, superiority. Whatever it means to be saved by the blood of the Lamb entails rejecting sacrificial or religious violence, and entails loving concern for fellow creatures, lambs included. Last week we celebrated new birth by water and the Spirit. Today, we celebrate/imagine new ways of being God’s people in and of Planet Earth. God be with you …   

One of my favourite thinkers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, says: “The world and I are within one another.” The world is in me/us, and I/we am/are in the world. If you hear in this an echo of the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel, you’re not the only one. If you hear in this an echo of Indigenous wisdom, you’re also not alone.

Incarnational faith seeks God in Creation, transcendence in immanence.

The sacraments – bread, wine, water, oil, words, history, culture, flesh – are not merely rituals to help us remember revelations of the past, but media to help us re-member, that is, re-assemble, reconcile forgotten, broken or partial revelations. The sacraments are where God happens, how love happens. Most Protestant/Evangelical churches recognise two sacraments. The Catholic tradition recognises seven. Eastern traditions refuse to set a limit. Many ecumenical theologians ask, Is not the Church itself a sacrament? Is not the Earth a sacrament?

Still, dualisms persist. And capitalism is one of the most powerful and persistent … teaching a disregard for Earth in and of itself, promoting exploitative and utilitarian attitudes and actions – what can be cleared, felled, fenced, killed, mined, extracted, manufactured, bought and sold at a profit. The world is “out there” or “over there” – my playground/adventure park, my shop, my rubbish tip, obstacle, enemy, romantic setting …

We need new cosmologies, new economies, new songs.

“It will take a rigorous poiesis if we are to salvage our collective life … If we do, it will be by opening new localities of communication for more planetary alliance. But novelties will crash like a computer without the reopening of old – even ancient – lines, folds, and forces of vibrant relation. So theopoetics may be crucial to this coalescence: it will suggest political ecologies transgressive of the walls that now obstruct the meanings that matter …” (Catherine Keller).

We need new cosmologies, new economies, new songs.

And sometimes, as Keller says, that means listening again, revisiting ancient sites of faith and wonder. “Sing God a new song,/ Play with all your skill, and with shouts of joy! …/ By your word, O God, the heavens were made,/ by the breath of your mouth all the stars …” “Psalm 33 is a new song that sings about a new world. It is the world about which Israel always sings, the new world that Yahweh is now creating. It is a world ordered by God’s justice over which God presides with faithfulness. To such a world the only appropriate response is confident and sure praise to the one who makes that world available to us” (Walter Brueggemann).

“Though invisible to the eye, God’s eternal power and divinity have been seen since the creation of the universe, understood and clearly visible in all of nature” (St Paul, Romans 1:13, 20). This is a remarkable text. Divinity seen in creativity. Transcendence in immanence.

Inspiring poets of a recent age … D.H. Lawrence writes: “God is the great urge …/ towards incarnation …/ There is no god/ apart from poppies and the flying fish …/ The lovely things are god that has come to pass, like Jesus came …”

Inspiring poets/limericists of the present age. Margaret Vazey writes: “New beginnings can be weedy and wild/ because weeds do not stop at one child,/ but propagate with vigour,/ getting bigger and bigger,/ and finally drive everyone wild!”

Incarnational faith sees humanity and divinity entwined, human language/poetry and the Word of God entwined, Creator and Creation entwined, poppies and flying fish, lovely things, Jesus, weeds and wild passions …

We need new cosmologies, new economies, new songs.

In his 1955 book Science and Christian Belief, Charles Alfred Coulson (1910-1974) – a mathematics professor and Methodist minister – wrote: “There is no ‘God of the gaps’ to take over at those strategic places where science fails; and the reason is that gaps of this sort have the unpreventable habit of shrinking …” and “Either God is in the whole of Nature, with no gaps, or [God’s] not there at all.”

And yet … perhaps there is something to this notion of a gap. Not a gap in knowledge, a gap to be filled by knowledge, but a space for new beginnings, for life, for love.

“The [Word] of God is always a dialogue within God,” says theologian John Manoussakis. There is a gap or space, he argues, that distinguishes “true God from true God” …  “while uniting them precisely as the common ground of their dialogical possibility.”

Thinking within this Trinitarian frame, Manoussakis presents Earth (and all of Creation) as “the opening between the unimaginable God and the image/icon of God”. In other words, there is a crack or gap within the Triune God – a space about which divine persons move and love … create, redeem, sustain …  

“For in forming the human,” Richard Kearney says, “God bore witness to a gap within divinity, a sabbatical crack or fracture from which the life-drive of eros could emerge as desire for its other.”

We need new cosmologies, new economies, new songs. Amen.